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Freelancing

Being a freelancer carries with it certain freedoms and certain restrictions. The freedoms, of course, include the ability to work at home, to pick your own hours, to dress as you want and to avoid offices or cubicles. The restrictions include the fact that those hours almost invariably are longer than those worked in more 'regular' jobs - and, most of all, there is the uncertainty. The unpredictable frequency of employment, the inconsistency of payment.

I have made it into my 44th year having never really had a 'real' job. I was a full-time employee of Greenpeace from 1989 to 1995, and I was a full-time consultant with them from late 2005 to mid-2007. The rest of the time, I've been a freelancer; I've had, for much of the time, at least one regular or semi-regular gig that provided a small amount of guaranteed income, generally enough to cover rent if not much more. But there have been times when the work has dried up, the income stream has slowed to an anemic trickle, the cards have been maxed out, and the future looked bleak. I will never forget in early 2005, perhaps my lowest ebb, when I had absolutely no idea where my next nickel was coming from, wondering if I could meet my bills or even afford groceries.

Even when I have work, the lack of regularity means that sometimes it takes a while before I am able to get ahead. Last year, I had a decent contract to help coordinate some gulf of Mexico oil spill response work; even so, I can still clearly picture myself standing on a dock in St. Petersburg, Florida, using my BlackBerry to transfer funds from my savings account to keep my checking account ticking over until money was deposited into it.

That's the situation in which I suddenly find myself. May was a month in which I incurred a lot of expenses; in June, for an assortment of reasons, vendors who owe, between them, over $11,000 of payment have yet to provide the funds I am due. Credit card companies are calling, my bank account is dwindling, I am sending "hurry up" emails and anxiously checking my mailbox each day for the sign of a check.

The situation is better than it was in 2005; at least I know the money is coming. But the credit card companies don't know that. And knowing it's coming isn't even close to the same as it actually being here. It's a fascinating and sobering reminder of how easy it is to suddenly slip intro trouble. And in the meantime I sit and stress.
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